Fun Friday – Daleks, Jedi, and Vultures, Oh My!

The very latest new and improved whiter than white venture capitalist trend is (drum roll) – “The Consumer Internet”! “Every other venture capitalist one encounters in Silicon Valley now seems eager to reinvent himself as an expert who can spot hot new consumer-driven Internet ventures” writes Gary Rivlin of the New York Times. “The problem is that you’ve got all these software V.C.’s, they don’t know what to do with themselves…They say, ‘These are deals that make people a lot of money, and enterprise software is largely dead.’ So now they’ve decided they’re consumer Internet venture capitalists.” (George Zachary, Partner at Charles River Ventures).

Now, I know that you’re reading this blog while shopping online, running your RSS feeds of the latest stock news, IM’ing to a friend, VOIP’ing on a conference call with a client, and secretly watching a movie you got from a p2p site. But did you know that you are a part of the consumer Internet and that there’s money to be made off of you? Are you surprised yet? Are you holding your wallet tighter?

Daleks are fearsome creatures, indistructable, flustered by stairs, and good dustbins in a pinch. Perhaps that’s why one disappeared from storage recently. “A spokesman said: ‘There may be a black market out there for Daleks – but it’s still a strange thing to steal’.” (BBC News). So if you see something with an odd British accent saying “Exterminate”, cheer up – it may be worth $500 pounds.

Finally, for the last word on the Apple-Intel alliance (a slashdot reader) :
“I felt something, a disturbance in the network, as if a million Mac zealots cried out in horror and were suddenly silenced.”

Fun Friday: Buckets of Bandwidth, SciFi High, and Silly Searches

First of all, my favorite search of the week from Google (search terms: NS32000 data sheet):
Jolitz Heritage – [ Diese Seite übersetzen ]
… Based on the NS32000 microprocessor, it was a portable no wait state …
In its latest incarnation, its on a huge fork mount made of sheet metal. … – 177k – Im Cache – Ähnliche Seiten

Wow, those first processors sure were huge!

Second, courtesy of Tom Foremski of SiliconValleyWatcher, Verizon is introducing a new service with real bandwidth:
5 Mbps down /2 Mbps up = $39
15 Mbps down /2 Mbps up = $49
30 Mbps down /5 Mbps up = $199

Sure beats the 128kbps that most SBC DSL users get stuck with. Of course, is it available in the heart of Silicon Valley, the land of innovation? Of course not. But Tom hasn’t given up hope: “I’m still trying to figure out how to use my friend as my new ISP. He’s in a canyon about 10 miles from me, so wireless won’t work. Maybe he’ll let me put my servers in his tool shed…”

Finally, Edward Rothstein of the NYTimes wrote a very thorough article on the new Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle. It even includes a display of robots from various science-fiction movies and television shows like “Lost in Space” and “Star Wars”. So if you couldn’t get all the robots in Bots (see Fun Friday: How Many Robots Can You Name?), visit the museum that Paul Allen’s money built – I’m sure you’ll spot a few familiar faces.

You Can’t Con all of the Icons All of the Time

Bravo to Alan Deutschman of Fast Company on his Icon book review. According to Alan, since Jobs won’t cooperate with any biographer after Michael Moritz’s successful book “The Little Kingdom” in the 1980’s, “Jobs’ freeze-out gives two options to would-be biographers: Either they can succeed at a bit of investigative reporting, or they can plunder the work of those who have. Unfortunately, the authors of “iCon” are guilty mostly of the latter.” He then proceeds to rip the book apart, finding rehashes of his and Moritz’s work. “I felt disturbed reading the brief prologue of “iCon,” with its play-by- play of the crazed reaction of the crowd at the January 2000 Macworld convention when Jobs announced he was taking the title of CEO — the same scene I used in my similarly brief prologue to “Second Coming.” Then I relaxed while the next 135 pages were basically a condensed version of Young’s earlier bio (which drew much of its best material from Moritz’s “Little Kingdom”). Then, on Page 138, it began to seem as if Young had reached the end of his previous book — and had begun to condense my book.”

There is nothing more annoying than doing the hard work in original reporting / research, only to find someone rips it out of your book without even giving credit, or worse yet, distorts what you wrote so that it is completely wrong. I know – I had the same thing happen to me. I co-wrote a kernel design book, Operating System Source Code Secrets Volume 1: The Basic Kernel (see Jolix for more information) describing the design, implementation and internals of and incorporating original work. No one else had ever done this work before in any operating system – we had done the long series of technical articles in Dr. Dobbs Journal on which some of it was based, plus years out of Berkeley with the majority of work. The book was released in 1996 to good reviews, but it was about BSD of course, and focussed entirely on evolving that architecture.

Fun Friday: Just Singing Those Conference Paper Registration Consternation Blues

OK, so we put together a very nice neat academic paper “Beyond Network Processors: Using Dataflow Architecture for Low-Power Low Latency TCP Processing” for a conference. A really fun paper to write and to read. So fun I’d rather place it in a journal, get paid, and get compliments from real readers than send it to a stodgy corporate fest (although a few conferences like ACE are real cool). But when you got to do it, you do it.

But you know how these things go – you submit a lot of work, get comments back of the variety of “you caaant spell” and “your such a bad writer” variety, get gonged by a “secret” competitor on the review panel that you all know is lurking there in the shadows, complain, resubmit, and so forth. After about a gazillion times (during which I’ve written more articles, books and papers than the entire committee together), you get an acceptance dependent on paying for your registration. Well, if the company pays, it’s OK with me.

But sometimes I just think these conferences are just too amateur to be tolerated, especially with respect to their deadlines and requirements. The one thing you’d be serious about is a deadline, right? Nope, maybe not…

Fun Friday – Fetches, Kvetches, and Hammerlund Catches

Well, it’s Friday so I suppose I should go through the odds and ends catagory. The first item is a story about Rambus latest patent to speed up graphics. Dean Takahashi of the Merc is breathless in his admiration, “Micro-threading is the brainchild of a team of Rambus engineers led by Fred Ware and Craig Hampel. They were trying to figure out a way for memory chips to catch up with microprocessors and personal-computer components that have become faster over the years.” Yes, memory bottlenecks are a problem and they do , and Rambus deals with it.

But what’s their “invention”, really. Instead of one 32-byte fetch, they do 4 8-byte fetches in parallel… this is considered “clever”. Sigh. Actually, they’re very smart at Rambus, but I think they spend way too much time with lawyers (and journalists) and not enough with engineers.

Byte Online decided to rerun my article The Problems of Personalization this month, and I got quite a kvetch from a reader who caught every typo the editor missed. Needless to say, I agreed with him, notified the editor, and had quite a laugh. It’s good when your readers are so involved in your story that a double “and” is grating. So keep my editors on their toes and let me and them know if you find any other problems.

Mike Cassidy of the SJ Merc’s column today on old ham radio antennas brought back memories. Last summer my kids sold my father-in-law’s old Hammarlund HQ-129-X after realizing they were never going to use it (they spent the money on telescope parts). Now that they’ve got the Internet – why bother with radio? They buyer was a nice young undergrad from the Naval Postgraduate School ham club. I was told I could get a lot more for it from a collector, but this kid was really nice, drove over from Monterey and picked it up (it weighed about 40 pounds). So it got a good home and everyone was happy. Well, not quite. The antenna got taken down years ago and scrapped, so it wasn’t part of the deal.

Fun Friday – Datacenter Checksum Stories

In an e2e discussion on the loss of data integrity on Oracle TNS gateways that still exists today, one wag said “When Network General was adding more SQL decodes to the Sniffer(r), in the ’90s, we had a presentation on the Oracle transport (TNS) underlying SQL Net traffic. TNS rode on Netware SPP, or TCP, etc. The fellow went into packet fields in detail and explained how Oracle also made gateway software available for Sun boxes to go from an Oracle system to an IBM SNA db system. The gateway received SQL on TNS on TCP on IP on Ethernet (for instance) and spit out SQL on TNS or whatever IBM wanted. As he expounded on TNS pkt fields, a few hands went up — “What’s the checksum field for if it’s always 0?”…”It’s unimplemented for now”. “Well if it’s unused and your gateway has bad memory, how do you know the data going into the db on the other side will be good?” Answer: “I don’t know”. (Thanks to Alex Cannara).

Of course, if the Oracle tech guy had gone to the Microsoft Research school of obsfucation, he would have said “The probability of this event occuring such that the reliability of the underlying link layer is impaired by an improbably low memory bit error at ten to the minus 12 excluding thermal radiative factors and charge displacement is so low as to be impossible, hence the question is irrelevent”. Now, that’s the way to talk the talk. I guess that’s why Oracle is always Number 2 to Microsoft. 🙂

Fun Friday: A Tale of Two Women

I was struck by the contrast in reporting of two very different women in Silicon Valley. Matt Marshall writes of Joanna Rees-Gallanter, aka “Alley Cat”, as she goes through a tumultous rolling close of her new venture fund at VSP Capital. As Matt puts it “She’s got an interesting story, and it reveals the kind of grit it takes to get where she is. She told us about how people laughed at her idea of starting a venture firm, and how hard it was to transition from a non-traditional background. She even tried restaurants.” It really is hard in a very male-dominated industry like investment to make inroads. My take to Matt: Rolling closes and last minute sells. Been there, done that. Stress city. I’m glad to see a positive story about a woman VC who’s put together the team and closed the fund. Can’t wait to see what she does with it. Keep these stories coming”.

A very different view on Richard Koman’s piece about Analee Newitz, who thinks the only reason people worked on TCP/IP or open source projects like or Apache was to facilitate access to porn. Figures she’s booked with O’Reilly – I suspect this reflects their inside view on women in technology loud and clear. As I put it to Richard: “Hey, so the open source movement has finally got a woman speaker – but instead of a real woman developer or researcher they’ve got a girl talking dirty. Wow! How enlightened they are… However, this strange exhortation to love porn has nothing to do with the real reasons for why new architectures and design in technology are developed, nor does it speak to the motivations of the developers. Just because pimps and johns are ready to exploit any technology at any opportunity doesn’t mean it has anything to do with innovation, provides any value to society, or has any lasting impact.”

“I doubt we’ll soon see porn queens getting Nobel prizes, writing books of merit, or developing new solutions to problems of hunger, poverty, and injustice. But we will see lots of opportunists jump on the bandwagon as technology changes our society, proclaiming themselves as the “true” innovators as they gull the rubes. This hucksterism has always gone on. After ten thousand years of civilization, it’s amazing anyone sees this for anything less than some oddball carnival sideshow – briefly entertaining, somewhat freaky, and definitely unimportant.”

And that’s why it’s tough to be a woman in Silicon Valley. For every serious woman in business, technology, and investment, there are fools ready to say and do anything for their 30 seconds of Internet fame, and a huckster ready and willing to exploit them. While the Analee’s of the world come and go, it’s time we showed how annoyed we are – using our money – drop a line to O’Reilly telling them you didn’t buy the Perl book and come to an open source conference to hear a woman talk about porn. You bought the book and came to the talks because you want to hear about the tech. Man or woman, demand they book real technologists who love open source. Don’t settle for anything less.

Lunch at the California Grill – Malts and Talk

Rick Bentley, a Berkeley physics alum, has been written up by Mike Cassidy of the Merc in a really great article on Rick’s experiences in Baghdad and running a security startup, Connexed. Not that I’m surprised – I introduced Rick to Mike and got to sit in at the California Cafe as Rick told stories while sipping a chocolate malt. I also enjoy seeing a real journalist at work, and Mike writes some really great stories that blend business with the human element in Silicon Valley. It was a pleasure to watch him work.

So read the article, and tell Mike to keep more like this coming. Oh, and stop by Rick’s company site – security is important these days, and unlike some armchair CEO, Rick knows what it is like to live in a insecure world.

Fun Friday: It’s All About Relationships, but Pass the Toilet Tissue

Very funny little item about Friends of Frank and deals in the urinals. Of course, how could I not remark on this amazing way of meeting and greeting – “Urinals”, huh? Well I guess that’s one way to have an all-male “members-only” club. :-)”.

On the German side, a discussion of venture capital in Germany by Dirk Riehle and his concern that Germany is “facing a venture capital deal market failure” reaches a rather startling conclusion: “From the data some of the VCs presented, it seemed clear what’s wrong with Germany, startups, innovation, and venture capital: There are not enough VCs”. Given the terrible IRR’s in recent years, I’m sure that several of the funds could “spare” their nonperforming VCs on a “permanent loan” status, kind of like the way museums get musty old pots out of their basement and off to someone else’s collection.

But to get some balanced feedback, I asked William Jolitz what he thinks about this supposition, since he’s the guy who handles the investment and international business side. “It isn’t a lack of VCs that causes capital to be restricted. It’s because of a lack of capital that there are few early-stage VCs due to the bubble burst – you have to make the dogs invested during the bubble perform before you’re allowed to invest again”.

“There’s no difference between being a VC and a loan shark”, as an east coast CEO likes to tell me, “except for the ties”. 🙂

Dodging Bullets is a Lot Easier in Silicon Valley After Iraq

I just heard from Rick Bentley, a Berkeley physics alum – he’s back here in the good old Bay Area from Iraq, trying to get back into CEO stuff at his security startup. Talk about “culture shock” – from meditations on bullets and murdered colleagues and finding yourself alone and unarmed on the wrong side of the Green Zone, to Silicon Valley startup and bizplans and product specs. Yet that’s the way it is nowadays – the world is a much smaller place.

I like the weblog he’s done talking about his experiences. So many startup execs today are extremely narrow in their outlook – maybe Stanford biz school and a few preppie connections, or perhaps locked up in an academic lab creating some new RFC. It’s rare to find someone (especially in security) who actually learns what it’s like for most ordinary people to survive in an unsafe world.

Personally, I prefer dealing with people who have developed some empathy for their profession through real-world experience, such as when the doctor for my daughter’s broken wrist talked about his family’s history of scoliosis while he was binding her injury and said “that’s why I became interested in orthopaedic medicine”. It’s living life that matters most.